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Bone breaks – body part under construction

Megan Johnson McCullough

Special to the Village News

Breaking a bone is not an enjoyable experience for anyone. It can be painful, disruptive to life and limit your mobility for some time. Not to mention the number of doctors' appointments you might have to attend during the initial and healing process. While waiting for healing, your lifestyle may change all revolving around accommodating for the break. What actually happens when we break a bone?

Collagen and calcium phosphate packed together are what make up bones in our bodies. As we age, bones take on different densities. As we get older, bones become less dense because they have less collagen and calcium phosphate. It leads to having weaker bones.

Therefore, the breaking point can be much different depending on age. Diseases like cancer and osteoporosis can also make one more susceptible to breaks. Bones are strong and can take on weight, hence how we are held up and supported. Too much weight and added force, however, can cause a break. It takes even less weight of force to cause a break the older we get. Sometimes elderly persons are referred to as having "brittle bones."

The technical term for a break is a "fracture." The area around the break might be bruised, stiff, swollen or even feel warm. Don't dismiss having it checked out.

There are different types of fractures based upon severity.

In complete fractures, the bone has broken into two or more pieces and the pieces of the bone are not connected at any point.

In a partial fracture, the bone has partially broken, but not completely. The bone is not completely split into two or more pieces, and the break stops somewhere in the middle.

A displaced fracture has broken pieces that are not lined up. They will have to be placed back into the correct order so that they will heal in the correct order.

In a non-displaced fracture, the broken pieces are lined up and will heal in order on their own.

Other types of breaks include stress fractures, which is a thin break with the nickname "hairline fracture;" transverse fractures, which is a break straight across the bone; oblique fractures are breaks at an angle; comminuted fractures , which is a bone breaks in three or more places and greenstick fractures have a break on one side, but they bend on the other, so it is almost like a stick on a tree.

Signs that a break has happened would be immediate pain to the area, feeling weak in the area and can't apply weight to the area. The area doesn't feel stable, and the fracture can get worse if you do apply pressure and ignore it. Immediate care is necessary at the onset of a fracture even if you aren't sure that is what happened.

Your body does start the healing process right after the break. Swelling will happen right away because blood clots are starting to form. The immune system sends new cells to heal and repair the site that will also collect germs and bacteria around the pieces to avoid infection.

Blood vessels immediately start to grow in the area to aid with healing. Cells go to the site and blood vessels are taking action. In the next four to 21 days, a callus will form around the bone which signals collagen to come take the place of blood clots. The callus that forms is stiff, so you need to wear a cast. The cast holds the bone in place for it to heal properly. Because the callus is soft, you don't want it to move and break.

Two weeks after the break, osteoblast cells get to work. They add minerals that form the new bone and make the new bone strong. This process will go on for another six to 12 weeks making the bone and making it up to par being hard. Finally, bone modeling takes place.

Now cells called osteoclasts come in to break down any extra bone that has formed so that the shape of the bone is correct. During this time, returning to activity can take place. Overall, recovery can take six to eight weeks. After the cast comes off, the skin under the cast will seem pale and even flaky. The body hair might even be darker.

Most people break a total of two bones in their lifetime, and 6.8 million Americans break a bone each year. Accidents happen between falls, crashes and injuries. It is a healing process of patience and keeping the break still. It can happen to anyone, anywhere and taking proper medical care is critical. A broken bone is a memory we don't forget. There's a story behind every break, but a story we would have preferred to live without.


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